The Jersey

Some teams are able to dominate a sport, but it’s only for a brief period of time. But not in Rugby Union. Rugby Union is dominated by the All Blacks, who have a winning record against every other nation. Few get close and they have transcended the sport. But what is their secret? That’s what The Jersey looks to find out.

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Peter Bills has gained access to past and present players and coaches as he looks to establish why New Zealand are the dominant force in Rugby Union. The All Blacks is the pinnacle in New Zealand, but they have have a strong school system that feeds into the franchises. They also look to establish continuity in the coaching staff and anticipate where the game is going as opposed to reacting to where it is.

But Bills’ study contains words of warnings, especially over whether people will watch if the result is a foregone conclusion. This isn’t just an excellent Rugby or sport book, it’s an excellent book.

Rating (out of 5): *****

New Zealand 34-17 Australia

New Zealand beat Australia to become the first team to retain the Webb Ellis Trophy with a strong performance to cement their place as the best in the world. New Zealand opened the scoring with a penalty, which Australia replied to and New Zealand added a couple more penalties before New Zealand scored their opening try at the end of the half. New Zealand looked to have the game secured with a brilliant try from Nonu at the start of the second half, but a yellow card for Smith allowed Australia to score two quick tries and move within four points, before a drop goal, penalty and try secured victory for the All Blacks.

The first half hour was quite nervy with plenty of errors from both sides, but once New Zealand hit their stride, they were the better team. They were able to secure quick ball when required when attacking and limited Australia’s chances – Australia only seemed to be in with a chance when New Zealand were down to 14 men. The victory for New Zealand was well deserved, who were clearly the better team and excellent throughout the knockout stages against France, South Africa and Australia.

South Africa 18-20 New Zealand

New Zealand recorded a narrow victory over South Africa to book their place in the World Cup Final and continue their quest to retain the Webb Ellis trophy. South Africa started well and were soon in the lead courtesy of a penalty. New Zealand hit back quickly with a try through Kaino that was converted by Carter. New Zealand had plenty of pressure in the first half, but were unable to score further as South Africa’s defence held firm. South Africa enjoyed success with box kicks, claiming many that they used. New Zealand’s discipline was poor and South Africa added three further penalties to give them a half time lead, the third seeing Kaino receive a yellow card for a blatant offside.

New Zealand opened the second half with more pressure despite having a player less and Carter scored a drop goal. They then followed this up with a try when Kaino returned, the try also seeing Habana sent to the sin bin for an offside in the build up. New Zealand kept their lead for the rest of the game, with further scores being added through penalties as the rain increased. New Zealand managed the clock well in the closing minutes to see the game out and record the win.

New Zealand looked less formidable than they did in the previous game against France, which perhaps shows the different intensity levels between the Northern and Southern hemisphere teams. South Africa kicked and chased well and it is surprising that they didn’t look to use the tactic more in the second half. New Zealand’s discipline improved in the second half, denying South Africa the chance to keep the scoreboard moving. New Zealand will need better discipline in the final to give themselves the best chance of winning as I think it will be difficult for them to win again if they concede too many penalties against either Australia or Argentina.

New Zealand 62-13 France

New Zealand brushed France aside and qualified for the quarter finals with ease, scoring nine tries in the process. New Zealand were able to secure quick ball throughout the game and pose a constant threat to the French defence, with powerful runs drawing defenders in and creating space. In contrast, France were unable to secure quick ball and didn’t appear to have a gameplan, trying several different things (although this could have been caused by the unrelenting pressure from New Zealand). Whatever France tried, New Zealand had an answer for and they laid down a big marker for the teams still in the competition and must be seen as the favourites, despite a tough looking semi-final against South Africa next weekend.

New Zealand 58-14 Namibia

New Zealand cruised to an expected victory over Namibia, scoring 9 tries in the process. New Zealand scored a couple of early tries and it looked as though a large score could be run up. However, after the opening 10 or 15 minutes, New Zealand seemed to play and score whenever they want. The highlight of the game was undoubtedly Namibia scoring their try in the second half.

A tricky game for New Zealand has been completed successfully (they could only struggle and not win by a big margin or conversely put up a big score and be told that it was expected) and they are top of the Pool and in complete control. Namibia lost as expected, but played well in patches and scored a memorable try. Whilst they will not qualify from the Pool, they have shown that they will be able to give the other teams in the Pool a game.

Rugby World Cup: Pool C Preview

Countries competing in Pool (IRB ranking in brackets)

Argentina (8)
Georgia (16)
Namibia (20)
New Zealand (1)
Tonga (11)

Pool C looks to be fairly cut, with New Zealand and Argentina being the clear favourites to progress. However, Tonga will certainly have hopes of ruining that and qualifying for the knockout phases, almost certainly at the expense of Argentina if they manage to do so. As a result, this is probably the biggest game of the group, although I am sure Georgia will be looking to spring a surprise against Argentina and/or Tonga through their strong forwards, but I don’t think that they will. For Namibia, it looks difficult to see how they will manage a win in a tough-looking group for them.

Predicted final table:

1. New Zealand
2. Argentina
3. Tonga
4. Georgia
5. Namibia